Ryan De Vries reacts while playing for Auckland City in a 2017 Club World Cup match against Al Jazira in December. Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAPE TOWN - South African-born marksman Ryan de Vries' red-hot form for Auckland City FC has earned him a move to Japanese club FC Gifu.

The 26-year-old has been playing in New Zealand since 2010 - first at Waitakere United and then Auckland City, and has proven himself to be a goal-scorer of note - in 121 matches (109 starts), he has netted 61 goals.

Of course the New Zealand league is not of the highest quality but nevertheless it's a goals-to-games ratio to be very proud of; certainly, no one back home in the PSL is coming close to that kind of statistic. 

However, it's too late for him to be considered for the Bafana Bafana setup as he was persuaded by New Zealand to switch allegiances and he has already represented the All Whites in a match against South Korea.

De Vries revealed a couple of years ago that he had never been approached by the South African Football Association, which effectively helped make up his mind.

"I haven't ever been approached by anyone at SAFA."

De Vries' time in New Zealand has certainly been trophy-laden - he's been part of six title-winning teams, and also has four OFC Champions League winners' medals to his credit.

And in December of 2014, he helped his team become the first Oceania side to earn a top-three finish at the FIFA Club World Cup, when he scored in a 1-1 draw with Mexico's Cruz Azul before his side won the penalty shootout.

It was while playing in the Club World Cup in a match against J League champions Kashima Steelers in last year's tournament that de Vries caught the eye of FC Gifu.

Gifu actually participates in Japan's second tier. But, as de Vries' coach at Auckland City, Ramon Tribulietx, explained, it's still a significant step up for the striker.

"I'm astounded this move hasn't happened sooner for a player of Ryan's quality — particularly in the last two years," said Tribulietx.

"Ryan is a player that can grow in a professional competition and environment. The reality is Ryan trained and played for us to a high standard and held down a fulltime job outside of the game. I'm pleased he has at last reached a full-time professional environment where he will be able to show his potential and prove himself."

While South African-born rugby players, including a number of Springboks, have increasingly been attracted to playing in the lucrative Japanese league, de Vries will be the only South African footballer earning a living in that country. 

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